How To Survive A Nuclear Power Plant Accident

The word’s dependence on nuclear power generation is increasing every year, and the possibility of an accident or attack triggering a nuclear power plant disaster is a growing concern. But while the possibility is undeniable, the outlook is far from bleak; not only is nuclear power historically very safe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family in the event of a nuclear power plant accident.

Increasing Use of Nuclear Energy Worldwide

There’s no doubt that nuclear power is a well-established and rapidly growing part of modern life. Nuclear power generation currently supplies about 14% of the electricity used worldwide; as of 2016, a total of 30 countries were operating 450 nuclear reactors for electricity generation, and 60 new nuclear plants were under construction. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nuclear power use is increasing by 2.3% per year.

France leads the world in nuclear power consumption, depending on reactors for about 75% of its electric power, and nine other European nations get more than a third of their electricity from nuclear power. North America is close behind, with the US generating around 20% of its power through a total of 99 nuclear reactors in 30 states, and Canada relies on 19 reactors for approximately 16% of its electricity.

Nuclear power actually has an excellent safety record, with only three major accidents in over 50 years. In fact, no member of the public has been injured or killed in the entire 50-year history of commercial nuclear power in the U.S. But nuclear safety is closely linked with security, and the possibility of terrorism has joined inherent safety risks like aging equipment and operator error in fueling fears of a nuclear power plant event that could put the public at risk.

The Anatomy of a Meltdown: Understanding the Possibilities

Nuclear power plants generate electricity by converting water to steam, using the heat generated by splitting uranium or plutonium atoms in a process called nuclear fission. Though nuclear fission doesn’t directly produce radiation, it does result in the creation of unstable radioactive particles which create radiation as they decay. The power generator as a whole is referred to as a nuclear reactor, and the part of the reactor in which the fission takes place is a closed environment called the core.

Complex cooling and containment systems are used to protect the core and its contents from the heat generated by the fission process. The worst-case nuclear accident scenario is often referred to as a meltdown, which can be defined as an overheating accident in which the reactor core is damaged and radiation is released into the environment.

While even a partial meltdown is extremely serious, it’s important to separate fact from speculation and myth; fears that a meltdown can turn a power plant into a massive nuclear bomb are scientifically baseless. According to the Center For Nuclear Science And Technology Information, nuclear weapons detonate because they contain particular configurations of specific materials that are not present in nuclear reactors.

It’s also important to understand that a meltdown doesn’t necessarily equate with a massive and catastrophic radiation release. Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster, in which a total of 30 people died from acute radiation poisoning, was the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power in which radiation-related fatalities occurred. The other two serious nuclear power plant accidents – Three Mile Island in the US and Fukushima Daichii in Japan – involved partial meltdowns of one or more reactors, but in both cases, the radiation escape was minimized, and neither accident resulted in any deaths or cases of radiation poisoning.

However, the fact remains that any radiation escape is critical, and radiation exposure is the number one danger posed to the public by a nuclear crisis. Taking the following steps can help you and your family stay safe in the event of a nuclear power plant disaster.

Number One Priority: Follow Emergency Alert Instructions

The US government’s emergency response plans for a nuclear accident include two separate planning zones, one for a 10-mile radius of the reactor where people could potentially be harmed by direct radiation exposure and one for a 50-mile radius, where food crops and water supplies could be contaminated by radiation.

In addition, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has established four categories of nuclear emergencies, in increasing severity: Unusual Event, Alert, Site Area Emergency, and General Emergency. The only level at which radiation is expected to present a threat to the public is General Emergency, but if you live within 10 miles of the plant you are considered to be in the Emergency Planning Zone and may be alerted or instructed to evacuate at an earlier stage.

In the US, about a third of the population lives within 50 miles of a reactor, and about 6 million people live within a 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone. If you’re unsure of your distance from the nearest reactor, click here for an evacuation zone finder provided by the Physicians For Social Responsibility.

Click this map to determine if your location falls within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor

Alerts may include sirens, a radio tone, an automated call from a public safety warning system, or an in-person alert from emergency responders. If you receive an alert or warning, tune your radio or television to your designated Emergency Alert Station and wait for instructions.

Important: Follow Emergency Alert instructions. If you’re instructed to remain in place, stay where you are and don’t attempt evacuation. Depending on the nature of the emergency and a variety of environmental factors such as wind speed and direction, evacuation could be much more dangerous than staying in place. If you are instructed to evacuate, do so immediately. If authorities specify a certain route or tell you to travel a certain distance from your current location, follow instructions without deviation.

Advance Preparation For Evacuation

Unless you’re otherwise instructed by authorities, putting as much distance as possible between yourself and the site of the emergency may be your best option. If you live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, it’s wise to make advance arrangements that will allow you to leave the area quickly, with a minimum of confusion.

Establish your own evacuation plan, complete with a preferred escape route that will take you out of the affected area as quickly as possible, and at least one alternate route that you can use if your preferred route is closed, congested, or otherwise inaccessible.

If you have friends or family at a location at least 50 miles from your home, make advance arrangements with them to serve as your emergency destination and plan your route accordingly. If you don’t know anyone who can provide emergency shelter, determine well in advance what your evacuation destination will be. If you have pets, do some advance research to find pet-friendly lodging at your destination city. Indecision and confusion can create dangerous delays.

See also: How to Make a Bug Out Plan

Keep an evacuation kit, also known as a “bug out bag,” packed and ready to go. Prepare your evacuation necessities in a travel bag or backpack and keep it in an out-of-the-way location where it won’t be “plundered” for everyday needs but can easily be grabbed if an emergency occurs. Include cash, basic first aid supplies, a few days’ worth of essential medicines for family members and pets, flashlights, a transistor radio, batteries, and a zip-lock bag containing copies of your important papers (driver’s license, Social Security cards, proof of insurance, bank account and credit card numbers, and a list of personal contacts). Refer to our bug out bag packing list to help you pack.

Pack minimally, but efficiently. Include enough basic clothing for a couple of days, all prescription and over-the-counter medicines regularly taken by anyone in the family, and simple hygiene necessities. Pack a bag, box, or crate with bottles of water, snacks, and pet food, and stow it in your car.

Secure your home and let someone know you’re leaving. Lock windows and doors and shut off utilities if possible. If you’ve arranged for friends or family to serve as your emergency destination, contact them and let them know you’re on your way. If you don’t have a pre-set emergency destination, contact someone who lives anywhere outside the affected area and tell them you’re evacuating and the location to which you plan to travel. When you reach your destination, contact them again and let them know you arrived.

Keep your vehicle sealed. Travel with windows up and vents closed.

Advance Preparation For Remaining In Place

If you live within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, you may want to make advance preparations for a shelter-in-place order following a nuclear accident. Though shelter-in-place orders are usually brief, measured in hours rather than days or weeks, every situation is different and keeping a store of some basic supplies on hand can help you and your family get through an emergency.

Store enough water for two weeks. Keeping an ample supply of stored water on hand is an important part of any emergency preparations, but it can be particularly important in the case of a nuclear accident because a radiation release could potentially contaminate water sources long after a shelter-in-place order is lifted. The US Department of Homeland Security advises families to store a total of at least one gallon per person, per day. Water doesn’t spoil or go bad, so if it has been properly stored, it can be used indefinitely. However, Homeland Security advises that stored water supplies be replaced every 6 to 12 months for best taste and maximum safety.

If you buy bottled water, keep it tightly capped, mark it with the date purchased, and store it in a cool, dark place.

If you choose to bottle water for storage yourself, it’s important to follow a few basic safety rules. Store water only in glass or food-grade plastic containers that have been cleaned and sanitized; two-liter soda bottles are a good choice. Wash containers and lids with hot soapy water and rinse well, then sanitize by rinsing containers and lids with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Leave the containers wet with the sanitizing solution for two minutes, then rinse them again with water. Fill the containers with tap water, make sure all containers are tightly lidded, mark them with the date, and store in a cool, dark place.

Lay In Food Supplies. Stock an emergency pantry that will keep your family going for at least two weeks. A major nuclear accident could potentially disrupt access to electricity and other utilities, so concentrate on simple non-perishable canned or boxed foods that require little or no preparation. Avoid salty foods or snacks, which can increase thirst and put an additional burden on water supplies. Don’t forget to keep two weeks’ worth of canned food for pets, and store dry pet food in sealable glass or plastic containers.

Make provisions for light, heat, cooking, and communication. If electric service is interrupted, you’ll need alternate sources of light and heat. Flashlights and battery-powered lamps are the best lighting options, though it’s wise to keep matches and several candles with your emergency supplies. A sterno stove is a cheap, compact, and convenient choice for emergency cooking, and either a kerosene or propane-powered heater can keep a single room tolerably warm. Be sure to store extra batteries for lighting devices and fuel for stoves and heaters.

Maintaining communications is one of the biggest challenges in an emergency that involves the loss of electricity, internet connectivity, and phone service. A battery-operated radio can an invaluable source of official information, so make sure you have at least one (and plenty of batteries) stored with your emergency supplies, or better yet, get a hand-crank emergency radio such as the Eton FRX2. Cell phones will operate as long as a carrier signal is available, but only if they’re charged, so keep at least one portable charging device plugged in and at the ready.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In: Preparing Your Home for a Disaster

What To Do After An Emergency Happens

The first and most important thing to do in case of a nuclear plant emergency is to seek out and follow official instructions. If evacuation is ordered, leave without delay, but if you’re advised to remain in place, do so. Though your gut instinct may be to flee, evacuation isn’t always the best option for safety following a nuclear accident; wind and weather conditions can significantly increase the danger presented by a release of radiation, as can the amount of time that has elapsed since the emergency began.

If you get a shelter-in-place order or are simply not ordered to evacuate, there are several steps to take to maximize your safety at home during a nuclear emergency.

Get all pets and people inside the house immediately. Go to a basement area or windowless interior room if possible.

Lock windows and doors and turn off all sources of air intake, including air conditioning, heaters, and furnaces. Close air vents and fireplace dampers.

Seal your shelter room. Use duct tape and heavy plastic to seal cracks and spaces around doors and windows and to close off vents.

Keep lines of communication open. Tune your TV or radio to local Emergency Alert System stations, and use your telephone only if absolutely necessary.

If there’s any chance that you’ve been exposed to radiation, act quickly. If you’ve received decontamination instructions, follow them immediately. If you believe you’ve been exposed to hazardous radiation but haven’t received decontamination instructions, take a thorough shower and change clothes and shoes. Put the clothes and shoes you were wearing when exposed into a plastic bag, seal it, and put it well outside of your home. If pets were outside and could have been exposed to radiation, shampoo and rinse them thoroughly.

Seek a public shelter if necessary. If you’ve been told to evacuate but don’t have transportation, or if you haven’t been ordered to evacuate but feel it’s unsafe to remain in your home, you may be able to get to a public shelter. If you’re located in the United States, the US Department of Homeland Security says you can text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).

The Bottom Line: Stay Alert, Follow Instructions, and Keep Calm

The enormous potential of a nuclear power plant makes even the thought of a reactor accident terrifying, but in fact the evidence over more than 50 years of nuclear power shows that it is a safe and reliable means of generating electricity; the risk of accidents is already low and is declining as technology improves and safety measures and regulations expand.

Most importantly, your own actions and attitude play an enormous role in seeing you and your family safely through a nuclear emergency. Staying calm and alert, having an advance plan, and seeking out and following emergency instructions can be your best safeguard.

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The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In: Preparing Your Home for a Disaster

The Ultimate Guide to Bugging In

Natural disasters are a rare and terrifying but undeniable fact of life. Sometimes it’s possible to “bug out,” or leave the area before disaster strikes, but fleeing isn’t always an option. In those cases, being prepared to shelter at home, or “bug in,” can help ensure that you and your family through safe and sound.

Large-scale disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even massive winter storms can grind life as we know it to a halt, posing tremendous dangers and sometimes creating enormous damage and devastation. Critical services like water and electricity may be interrupted, leaving you without heat, light, or sanitation facilities. Even short-distance local travel may be impossible, making ordinary amenities like grocery stores, gas stations, and medical facilities inaccessible.

Coping with these conditions for even a brief time requires some advance preparation, but with reasonable foresight and careful choices, sheltering safely at home is feasible for most families. The US and Canadian governments both recommend that families make preparation for at least three days of emergency survival, and many preparedness experts advise considering three days as a starting point, gradually adding to supplies to enable home sheltering for several weeks or even months.

If getting ready to shelter at home for days, weeks, or even longer seems like a big job, you’re right – it’s a very big job, requiring time, thought, foresight, and a certain amount of investment in supplies. But it’s the ultimate security for yourself and your loved ones, and it’s something every family can and should do.

On the flip side, being prepared to evacuate, or bug out, is also highly recommended should you need to leave your home in the face of a disaster at short notice. Make sure that you have your bug out bag packed and ready to go.

The Crucial Preliminaries: Have A Plan, Pack A Kit, And Follow Official Instructions

Preparing for an emergency starts long before one is even predicted. Every household should have an emergency plan detailing the initial steps to follow when a disaster occurs. This doesn’t have to be a written plan, but all adults and older children should be familiar with it.

A basic initial emergency plan should include gathering all family members and pets inside, getting all cell phones and charging devices fully charged as promptly as possible, being aware of the various communication channels by which you can get official information on the unfolding situation, and monitoring the situation on TV, non-battery radio, and the internet as long as the power stays on.

All families should also have a very basic emergency kit, including a flashlight, a battery or crank operated radio, and extra batteries for both; candles and matches or lighter; a multipurpose tool or a knife, a screwdriver, and pliers; some cash; and a three-day supply of all medicines taken by all family members. Store these items together in a bag or box and keep it next to a basic first-aid kit in an easy-to-access area that is reserved specifically for emergency supplies.

As soon as you become aware that a disaster is likely or imminent, the emergency plan goes into action. Get all family members and pets indoors immediately, locate your emergency kit, start charging all cell phones and charging devices, and check your TV, radio, weather radio, social media, and any other communication channels for official information and to determine whether people in your area are being advised to evacuate. If you are in an evacuation area, comply with the order if at all possible; it would not be issued unless authorities had reason to believe that staying in place would put you in danger.

If you don’t get an evacuation order, or if you don’t become aware of the evacuation order until the disaster is already underway and it’s impossible to leave, get ready to bug in. If you’ve taken the advance steps below, you’ll be prepared to weather the storm.

Step 1: Select A Designated Shelter Hub

Obviously, the number one concern for bugging in is shelter; being able to stay at least relatively warm, dry, and protected from the elements is critical to survival. Once you’ve identified an emergency plan and packed a basic emergency kit, you can start your bugging-in preparations in earnest, by designating a room or area of your house as your family’s shelter hub.

Since keeping a whole house running in an emergency is impractical, particularly if utilities and basic services have been temporarily cut off, it makes sense to specify one room or area that will serve as your bug in “headquarters.” This is your designated shelter hub, and it’s the area in which most activities will take place for the duration of your bug in. If the power goes off, the shelter hub is the area that you’ll be heating and lighting, and it’s likely the room in which you’ll be preparing food, eating, and sleeping as well.

In some areas, basements or purpose-built below-ground shelters are commonly used for protection during tornadoes, but experts say an above-ground interior room, windowless if possible, is best for most emergencies. Choosing an above-ground area as your designated shelter hub can be particularly important if flooding is common or even a strong possibility in your area, or if chemical, biological or radiological contaminants are released into the environment.

It’s important to select a room that’s large enough to accommodate all family members and pets, along with a non-electrical heat source and sleeping bags and blankets. The designated shelter space should also provide easy access to essential daily supplies of food and water. A family room or den with a wood burning fireplace might be a good choice because it could potentially simplify heating, though that’s not always the case; a fireplace can’t be used if officials say the room must be sealed to keep contaminated air out, and some wood burners can’t be used when the power is off because they require electric blowers for safe operation.

If possible, clear out a closet or other storage space in the designated shelter room and dedicate it to storing emergency supplies like water, food, fuel canisters, etc. If no space is available in the room itself, choose a storage area in an adjoining room or at least nearby, and make sure the whole family understands that it is to contain only emergency supplies which must not be used under any other circumstances.

Step 2: Decide How You Will Create Heat And Light

If you have a wood stove or wood burning fireplace in your designated shelter hub and have not been instructed by officials to seal the room, you might be able to use the fireplace or stove as a heat source as long as you have wood on hand. However, it’s important to be aware that some wood burners and fireplace inserts cannot be safely operated without having electrically-powered blowers operating, so be sure to read up on your device and determine whether it can be safely operated without electricity.

If a wood burner or fireplace isn’t a possible heat source, non-electric heaters that use either kerosene or propane are safe, reliable, and affordable. Either can keep an enclosed space tolerably warm with a relatively small amount of fuel, and both kerosene and propane heaters are readily available in shops and online. Both types of fuel are sold everywhere, and both can be safely stored for several years.

Whatever heating device you choose, be sure to get one that doesn’t require any electricity and can heat a space the size of your designated shelter hub. When you purchase the heater, also buy the recommended amount of fuel to keep it working at least ten hours a day for three days. Though you’ll be storing your heater and fuel with your other emergency supplies, set it up and give it a thorough test run well before it’s needed in order to make sure it’s powerful enough to keep your space warm and see if you’ll need additional fuel on hand for a minimum three-day bug in.

Getting a good non-electric heating device is important, but it’s just one step toward staying warm while sheltering at home in a cold weather no-power situation. Close off the shelter hub room by closing all doors or covering doorways with heavy blankets. Make sure all windows are completely covered, and add heavy blankets over existing draperies to increase insulation. A prolonged power outage during the winter will quickly make you aware of every draft and cold-air ingress point; plastic sheeting or even heavy fabric tacked or stapled over windows and towels wedged under doors can go a long way toward limiting heat loss.

Keep as much activity in the shelter hub as possible during the bug in; not only will it decrease the area to be heated, having people and pets in the room will automatically raise the temperature. Combat cold by wearing multiple layers of clothing, along with hats, gloves, and at least two pairs of socks whenever practical during the day and definitely when sleeping. Make sure there are blankets, quilts, comforters, and sleeping bags for everyone, and be certain that you know exactly where everything is before disaster strikes. There’s nothing more frustrating than shivering through a long night under a blanket, knowing your down-filled sleeping bag is probably crammed into an unmarked box with the tent and badminton net somewhere in the basement.

If the power goes out you’re going to need a light source in your shelter hub, along with portable lighting for moving around the house. A wide range of rechargeable emergency lighting solutions, some of which hold a charge for well over 100 hours, are available at surprisingly affordable prices both online and in stores. If you live in an area where even brief blackouts are common, having a couple of these on hand could go a long way toward making everyday life easier, and they’re a great addition to your bug in preparations.

Flashlights are invaluable during an emergency, so make sure you have several on hand and plenty of spare batteries. Candles are also cheap, portable, readily available, and can actually contribute to warmth during a power outage, but could potentially pose a fire hazard, so take care to keep them well out of reach of children and pets when in use. Camping lanterns, both battery and propane operated, are affordable, reliable, and portable.

Optional, but recommended: In the event of widespread power failure, one of the first items that people rush out to buy are gas-powered generators. They sell out quick in the event of an emergency and having one in advance as a precautionary measure can go a long way in helping you stay comfortable. They are options that are stationary and need to be installed by a professional that are capable of powering an entire house or you can opt for a portable generator, such as the WEN 56200i, that is less powerful but can still come in handy for charging cell phones or running a small space heater.

Step 3: Secure Your Water Supplies

Next to having a secure shelter, access to sufficient drinkable water tops the list of bug in necessities. Water is absolutely crucial to survival, and going without it can be fatal in as little as three days. While water can be easily and affordably stockpiled and securely stored for emergency use, there are decisions to make about how you want to proceed.

Though not all emergencies have a negative impact on the availability of drinkable water, it’s by far safest to assume that you’ll need to have stored water on hand during a bug in. There are basically three approaches to stockpiling water supplies: you can buy bottled water, you can bottle tap water from your own well or municipal water service, or you can collect rain water in a large barrel, then purify and bottle it.

Buying commercial bottled water is the simplest and most convenient method of stockpiling water, but it’s also the most expensive. Collecting rain water in a barrel is probably the cheapest method, but it’s time-consuming and labor intensive. The most feasible and affordable method for most people is simply filling sanitized plastic soda bottles with tap water.

It’s important to note that not all plastic bottles or containers are safe for long-term water storage; for example, milk containers aren’t a good choice because they’re biodegradable and will eventually start to break down, plus it’s difficult to be certain that every trace of the original contents have been completely removed. Soda bottles meet the safe-storage criteria of being made of UV-resistant food-grade plastic so start the stockpiling process by saving your empties (or ask friends and relatives to save empties for you, if you don’t drink soda). For maximum efficiency, larger is better, and two liter bottles are ideal.

When you’ve accumulated a few empties, wash each bottle and cap well with hot water and dish detergent, then sanitize both bottles and caps inside and out with a bleach and water solution (one teaspoon unscented household bleach to one quart of water). Rinse the sanitized bottles well, then immediately fill them with tap water. If your water comes from a municipal service and is chlorinated, you don’t need to add anything, but if your water comes from a well and is unchlorinated, add one or two drops of unscented household bleach. Cap tightly, write the date on the outside of the container, and store in a cool, dark place.

If you have the space and budget for special water storage containers, many shapes and sizes are available. Commercial water containers run the gamut from drums and tanks capable of holding 55 to 100 gallons to small, super-portable rectangular containers, such as the WaterBrick, are designed for maximum stackability.

How much water will you need to store? The US Federal Emergency Management Agency says you should have at least one gallon of drinkable water per person per day, so a family of four would need an absolute minimum of 12 gallons of water for a three-day bug in. Nursing mothers or people with medical conditions may require more daily water, and if you have pets, you’ll need to add stored water for them, too.

How long can you store water? Technically, water in sanitized, sealed containers can be stored indefinitely. Water doesn’t expire or go bad, and though it can develop a stale taste after long storage, it’s still safe to drink. However, FEMA recommends that all non-commercially bottled water should be emptied and replaced every six months.

Even if you have ample water stored for an emergency, it’s a good idea to fill your bathtubs with water as soon as it appears that a disaster scenario is imminent. This water could come in very handy as a supplemental supply if your water service is interrupted for a long period of time, if sewage service is unavailable, or if your well becomes contaminated.

Step 4: Stock Your Emergency Food Pantry

Stockpiling storable, low-prep food is not only a must for emergency scenarios, it’s also a smart move for anyone who lives in an area prone to ice storms, heavy snowfall, torrential rains and flooding, or any other weather-related situations that can interrupt electric service and curtail travel even temporarily. Making home-cooked meals from scratch using only fresh ingredients is a great idea most of the time, but an alternative dinner source will come in very handy on those nights when the family is famished, the power is off, and the roads are impassable.

The trick to successfully stockpiling food is making the right choices. You need items that have a very long shelf life, don’t require special storage conditions like freezing or refrigeration, and can be eaten as-is or with an absolute minimum of preparation. That eliminates a lot of the standard dietary staples like bread, meat, dairy products, and fresh produce, all of which spoil relatively quickly. But just because something has a long shelf life, that doesn’t mean it’s a good candidate for short-term emergency food; both rice and dried beans are all but eternal, but they require a lot of preparation.

There are several options for emergency food supplies, including special dehydrated food packets typically used by backpackers and campers, and even military-style MREs, or Meals Ready To Eat, which come with water-activated heating packets. Both are designed to supply plenty of calories and nutrition. They’re also compact, portable, and very easy to store. However, all that convenience doesn’t come cheap, and dehydrated food isn’t always available locally, though it can certainly be ordered online from many reputable vendors.

The simplest and most affordable option for most people is to stock the emergency rations right from the shelves of the local grocery store. Canned or vacuum-sealed goods can be an excellent choice; canned or vacuum sealed tuna and chicken are long lasting and pack a lot of protein, and canned mini-franks, chili, stews, soups, pasta, fruits and vegetables all have a relatively long shelf-life and can all be eaten with minimal preparation (or even no preparation whatsoever). Buy an extra manual can opener and keep it in your emergency storage area.

You may also want to stock a few cans of fruit and vegetable juices, which have a long shelf life. Having them on hand can keep the kids happy and help make your water supplies last longer. And speaking of canned liquids, store a few cans of evaporated milk; you can add it to other foods to improve flavor and texture, and it makes a good creamer for coffee or tea.

Dried foods like oatmeal, macaroni specialties, Ramen noodles, soup packets, quinoa, and grits can be prepared by just adding hot water. Powdered milk, which has a long shelf-life and is very versatile, is also a good choice for your emergency stores. Nuts and nut products, including peanut butter, have a shelf life of about a year and can provide a lot of flavor along with some necessary protein. Be sure to stockpile standard peanut butter rather than the new “natural” types, which have a much shorter shelf life.

Don’t forget to store instant coffee and teabags, both of which can provide a welcome lift during an emergency situation. If you have a baby, be sure to store several days worth of canned or powdered formula, and lay in plenty of both canned and dry food for your pets.

Important: start your bug in by using up whatever “everyday” food you have on hand that can be eaten with little or no preparation, and use up the most perishable items like milk, bread, lunchmeat, cheese, yogurt, and fruit first. You don’t want to break into your emergency supplies until you have to; if you’re lucky your power will be restored before you’ve emptied the fridge, and if you’re not, at least your food hasn’t spoiled and gone to waste.

Emergency Kitchen Supplies: If your bug in lasts for more than a day, you’ll need some means of heating water and perhaps warming canned foods like soups and stews. Propane camp stoves are a great choice; they’re affordable, reliable, efficient, and come in several sizes. But even if you have a great camp stove, don’t count on doing a lot of cooking during a bug in – remember, the idea is to store foods that require little or no preparation. You don’t want to use any more fuel than absolutely necessary, and remember that cooking requires clean up that will drain your water supplies.

And speaking of cleanup… since you’re sheltering at home, you definitely have access to plenty of plates, cups, silverware, etc. But even if your water supply is uninterrupted, do you want to cope with heating water to do the washing up in a no-power situation? If you’re using your regular kitchenware, it’s either that or dealing with a growing mountain of dirty dishes where your sink used to be. The solution is simple: buy a few packs of heavy-duty disposable plates, cups, and bowls, and a package of disposable spoons to store along with your emergency food supplies. Add a couple of multi-packs of paper towels and use them to clean utensils, wipe out pans and bowls, etc.

Miscellaneous extras: These items aren’t necessarily kitchen-related, but they’re all important, and it’s a good idea to store them with your emergency food supplies, so you know exactly where to find them when you need them. Stockpile several multipacks of toilet paper and boxes of tissues; several boxes or rolls of large heavy-duty garbage bags; an extra bottle of whatever non-prescription headache and pain relievers your family uses; some additional dental care supplies (toothpaste, dental floss, denture adhesive, etc.); a couple bottles of hand sanitizer; a can of dry shampoo; extra deodorant; and at least a week’s worth of disposable diapers if there’s a baby in the family.

Step 5: Prepare To Set Up Sanitation

In an absolutely worst-case scenario, it’s possible that sewage systems could fail. A prolonged power outage could shut down the electrically-powered pumps that keep water flowing to tanks and toilets, and when that happens the results can be devastating. If you think that’s some kind of alarmist nightmare scenario that couldn’t really happen in first-world modern life, think again: in 1998 the city of Aukland, New Zealand suffered a five-week power outage that cut off water and sewage facilities to tens of thousands of apartments and offices. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans’ sewer disposal system, pumps, and water treatment center submerged under 20 feet of water and parts of the system were inoperable for weeks.

If a disaster causes the grid to go down, the immediate concern is how to dispose of human waste. A non-electric self-composting toilet could be the answer if you have the budget and space for it, but in most cases, you’ll need to find other ways to deal with the situation.

If you have an individual septic system with your own septic tank, you can flush even when the pumps are down by removing the lid from the back of the tank, filling the tank with water till it reaches the level of the float, and then pressing the flush lever. Remember the tip to fill your bathtub when you know that a disaster is imminent? This is a very good use for that water.

Alternatively, if you live in a rural area, going outdoors is an option (albeit one that few people will consider as a first recourse, particularly during a severe weather emergency). If you do decide to try this option, dig a roughly 6″ by 6″ hole at least 200 feet from any water source and well away from any rain water runoff. When you’re done, use the dirt you removed to refill the hole and cover the waste.

If you don’t have your own septic system and going outside isn’t feasible, it’s important to determine whether the municipal sewage main is working. If you’re sure the sewage main is operable, you can flush by adding water to the tank, the same way you would if you had an individual septic system. However, if you know (or even strongly suspect) that the sewer main is down, don’t flush your toilet. Doing so could potentially make it possible for sewage to back up into your plumbing. When the sewer main is down, you’ll have to collect and dispose of the waste you and your family generate.

Start by removing as much water as possible from the toilet, then put one heavy plastic garbage bag inside another and open them, creating a single double-layer bag. Raise the toilet seat and position the open doubled bag so that it fills most of the cavity of the toilet bowl, then tape the top securely to the underside of the toilet seat. Keep a large bag of cat litter in easy reach of the toilet.

After use, cover the waste in the bag with a liberal amount of litter to reduce the smell. After a few uses, or when the bag-covered bowl is about 2/3 full, add more litter and a bit of disinfectant (like a mild chlorine solution) if available. Tie the bag securely and move it to a sealable temporary container like a garbage can, placed well away from the shelter hub.

If this sounds like more than you can handle, you may want to look into online outlets and specialty stores that cater to campers, which offer small self-contained portable waterless toilets along with odor-controlling bags and deodorants. But even with these amenities, disposal is going to be a must and failing to do so could result in unbearable living conditions at best and potentially deadly illness at worse. Dealing with human waste in a no-water-no-power situation is a serious business that can’t be taken lightly.

Step 6: Know The Steps To Establish Security

This article deals primarily with sheltering at home during a natural disaster or weather emergency, so arming oneself, determining vantage points for defense, and other extreme security measures really aren’t applicable. However, it always pays to be reasonable about security, and there are some steps you should take to make sure you and your family are safe during your bug in.

Get an extra set of car keys made and keep them with your emergency supplies. If you have an electric garage door, be sure you know how to open it if the power is off. Lock your doors and windows as soon as you’re sure an emergency is imminent. If possible, contact friends or relatives who are in a location that won’t be affected by the emergency and let them know what’s happening in your area and what your plans are.

Get your cell phones and charging devices plugged in and charging as soon as possible. This is actually a very important security measure; a phone can be can be your lifeline in a desperate situation.

If your area is under an evacuation order but leaving is impossible, do everything in your power to get in contact with authorities and let them know that you’ll be sheltering in pace. If someone comes to your door claiming to be a city or municipal representative, ask for identification before you grant entry.

Once you’re sure you’re heading for emergency conditions, do as much as possible to get your shelter hub prepared (covering doors and windows, locating sleeping bags, setting up your heat and lighting devices, etc.) while you still have power – don’t wait for a blackout to get started. Everything is twice as difficult and takes much longer to accomplish when it’s cold and dark. If the power does go off, you’ll be ready. If it doesn’t, you can consider it an excellent practice session and have a good laugh about it.

Stay calm. This is important in any case, but it’s absolutely vital if you have children in your household. Youngsters pick up adults’ vibes with amazing speed, and if you’re tense and terrified, they will be too, and the whole experience will be worse than it has to be. Staying calm also makes you far more resourceful and responsible, improves your memory and dexterity, and generally helps you take care of everything that has to be managed during a bug in.

Keeping Spirits Up – An Achievable Challenge

If you’ve ever spent more than a day or so living through an emergency that trapped you and your family in a cold, dark, powerless house listening to the elements rage outside, you know that it’s an extremely challenging emotional situation. Having a way to stay warm and a good stock of emergency supplies on hand can make it a lot easier, but every day that goes by without a return to normalcy will erode your courage and your spirits unless you really make a sincere and sustained effort to stay positive and hopeful.

The bad news is that there’s no way to predict how long an emergency situation will last. Depending on the nature of the emergency, power outages can range from a few minutes to a few weeks; getting a municipal sewage system back into operation after a major flood can take well over a month. The good news is that you can be certain that the authorities are doing their utmost to solve problems, often starting even before the disaster actually strikes, and situations that require a full bug in of more than three days are relatively rare.

The trick to getting through a bug in is to tread the line between a fun indoor camping vacation and life as usual; you’re going to need elements of both to survive with your sanity intact. Do whatever you can to keep some kind of routine in your life. Try to eat meals at the same time as you normally eat, put children to bed at the usual hour, and resist the temptation to either utterly relax discipline or become exceptionally strict and demanding. Sticking to the usual schedule and tenor of life as much as possible will help everyone stay calm and cooperative.

At the same time, you have to be realistic about the constraints of the situation. Adults won’t be able to go off to their jobs, so the whole family will be together 24-7. Going outside to play will probably be out of the question for both children and pets, so you might have to find ways to deal with excess energy. Ordinary daily hygiene routines will have to be abridged to accommodate the inability to shower or shampoo, which might be fine as far as the kids are concerned, but can make adults exceedingly cranky.

One of the major challenges for modern people in a bug in situation is dealing with the absence of the entertainment sources we take so much for granted, like TV and the internet. The alternatives – books, games, puzzles, etc. – may initially be greeted with strong protest, but try to stay patient and positive about the options. Even if you have battery-operated games, DVD players, etc., it’s probably a good idea to put them out of reach or at least limit their use; while they will help pass the time, they’ll gobble up your emergency battery supply and as long as you’re in a bug in situation, there’s no way to get replacements.

Don’t be surprised if everyone (including you) has periods of moodiness, irritability, restlessness, or depression; bugging-in during an emergency is a strange and uncomfortable situation involving chores and challenges that no one is emotionally ready for. Be prepared to spend some extra time reassuring children that the situation is temporary and everything will eventually return to normal. If you happen to have chronically ill or elderly people in your bug in family group, be prepared to be reassuring with them as well. Emergency situations create feelings of helplessness and fear in everyone, and people who are very old or who have physical problems can feel particularly vulnerable.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself while bugging-in. Sheltering at home has many benefits, but it’s also an extremely demanding way to ride out an emergency, particularly if the power goes off and your regular water service is unavailable. In many ways, bugging-in is a kind of return to pioneer living, but it can be pretty hard to feel exhilarated by overcoming the challenges when the kids are fussy, the dogs are whining to get out, a can of cold chili is the only thing on the dinner menu, and you haven’t had a shower for days. But you’re at home and you’re together; focus on that when the going gets rough.

Rest whenever you can. Stay as warm as possible, and eat enough to stay healthy. Take a multivitamin every day. Hunt up a book of crossword puzzles or a couple of those novels you’ve been meaning to read, and treat yourself to your own personal flashlight for at least a few minutes of quiet distraction each night.

And above all else, keep reminding yourself that everything is eventually going to be fine, and rest assured that you’re doing everything you can.

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TUUSK: The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit

tuusk

The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit (TUUSK) is a project that we undertook with the team at Ready To Go Survival. We set out to build a bug out bag that was optimized for urban survival.

The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit will enable you to:

  • Breach doors, windows, walls, containers, and other manmade or natural obstacles in your way
  • Protect your hands, eyes, ears, and lungs from debris and dust
  • Defend yourself against unfriendly survivors
  • Perform basic first aid
  • Purify and carry water
  • Start a fire for warmth, cooking, or signaling
  • Communicate with your bug out team
  • Receive radio updates on the evolving disaster
  • Shelter yourself from the elements
  • Have survival supplies for at least 72 hours
  • Stay mobile all day long, if need be, as it weighs under 15 pounds
  • And much, much more

Together, we tested dozens of items to see what would be best suited to help us survive an urban disaster. This testing was carried out in real world conditions in the heart of New York City and left no doubt in our mind that the final TUUSK loadout is ideally suited to keep you surviving and moving towards safety when time is critical.

With the TUUSK, you’ll never get caught unprepared.

Visit ReadyToGoSurvival.com to order the TUUSK

TUUSK Packing List

For The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit, we combined our survival experience to create a kit that’s worthy of being in every city dwellers home or apartment. Here’s a rundown of the components.

the-ultimate-urban-survival-kit
The Full TUUSK Loadout.

One of the biggest challenges when building a custom bug out bag is making sure the survival gear you are choosing is reliable and tough enough to bet your life on. This is one of the primary questions we focused on when developing the TUUSK.

The Backpack

The backpack we chose for the TUUSK is a Rothco Medium Transport Pack that is perfectly suited for carrying our survival gear plus personal items like spare clothes and important documents. It is MOLLE compatible for easy customization and has 4 compartments of varying sizes for simple organization of our gear.

Also, the Medium Transport Pack is durable and well-built making it perfect to endure the harsh urban survival landscape.

rothco medium transport pack

Breaching and Self-Defense

Breaching is an essential asset in an urban survival scenario. We may need to force open a door, break a building or car window, or open a container full of essential supplies.

The concentrated population of an urban center also increases the possibility of having to discourage unfriendly advances from other survivors. Having a self-defense tool at hand is important to tip this sort of situation in your favor.

To help us accomplish this, we are including two dual-purpose tools in the TUUSK:

  • Ontario SPAX Tool – The SPAX is a highly versatile breaching tool that is perfectly suited for the urban environment and can double as a self-defense weapon. The SPAX still held an edge after being used to break cinder blocks, pierce sheet metal, chop wood, and break glass.
  • Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops Knife – The Extreme Ops is capable of easily slicing through light to medium materials using either its main blade or seat belt cutter. The knife also integrates a glass breaker for escape or search and rescue purposes. It’s lightweight and compact yet tough enough to function as a full-sized knife.

The Ultimate Urban Survival Kit

Fire

To enable us to keep warm, generate light, signal for help, boil water, cook, and more we are including the following fire starting tools in TUUSK:

The lighters should provide enough fuel to last for months and are a great barter item as well. In our testing the UCO Stormproof Matches kept lit after having water poured directly on them and having me blow as hard as I can onto the lit match. Even the most inexperienced urban dweller should have no problem getting a fire going with these tools at hand.

urban survival kit fire

Food & Water

To stay hydrated and keep moving while bugging out it is recommended that you consume between 2-3 liters of water per day, depending on levels of fitness and exertion. To meet this requirement, we are including gear to both carry and purify water in the TUUSK:

urban survival kit food water

Environmental Protection

The urban environment can quickly become hazardous and toxic in the aftermath of a disaster. To protect ourselves from all manner of environmental threats we are including a set of safety equipment in TUUSK including:

This gear is lightweight, compact, and easy to use. In our testing, we were able to pull it all out of the bag and have every item deployed in about 10 seconds.

environmental protection gear

Shelter

Although the urban environment provides ample shelter opportunities, we wanted to equip ourselves with enough basic shelter building gear that we would be able to build a shelter from found materials, repair a partial shelter, and keep dry in the unlikely event that shelter could not be found in time.

To meet these needs we tested and debated a variety of shelter building materials. Ultimately, we settled on the items below. We felt that this set would give the most bang for the buck, as well as for their efficient weight and size:

urban survival kit shelter

Communication

Communication is a vital part of any survival situation. Keeping up to date with changing events allows us to make the best decision possible when life is on the line.

We chose the Eton FRX2 Emergency Radio to make sure we would always be kept in the loop as it is American Red Cross certified, powered by solar or hand crank, and can even charge your USB devices such as an iPhone.

In addition to getting communication from external sources, we also want to be able to communicate with each other and be able to signal rescue parties and other people we may encounter from afar, and we found that the Storm Emergency Whistle was perfectly suited to this task.

urban survival kit communications gear

First Aid

A survival kit isn’t complete without First Aid supplies. So, along with a traditional First Aid kit, we’ve included two additional supplies that will expand the kit’s scope.

urban survival kit first aid

Personal Tools

In addition to all the purpose-specific gear listed above, we also chose to include some basic tools that can make life easier when on the move.

  • Nebo 220 Lumen Redline LED Flashlight – Flashlights are an essential item for any bug out bag. This flashlight is bright enough to be used for signaling or to temporarily blind an aggressive person. Additionally, the 5 usage modes (high, medium, low, SOS, strobe) give the Redline the flexibility to be useful in any survival or emergency situation.
  • Gerber Compact Multi-Plier – A multitool with nearly limitless applications. The Compact Multi-Plier has all the basic tools one would expect from this type of tool including one-handed opening pliers, screwdrivers, a small blade, scissors, and a can opener. Again, every bug out bag should have a multitool of this style.
  • Folding Eating Utensils – This is one of those comfort items that remind you that you are a human being after a day of hiking under grueling conditions. The urban landscape should be filled with scavenging opportunities, and utensils will help us consume what we find.
  • 6 AA and 6 AAA batteries – The AAAs can be used as replacements on the Redline flashlight. The AAs can be used to power other personal devices. Batteries are also immensely valuable bartering items. No one wants to waste time in the aftermath of a disaster foraging for batteries. Pack a few extra and reap the benefits.

urban survival kit tools

Video Walkthrough of the TUUSK

From the very inception of the TUUSK project, we committed to testing all the gear instead of relying on YouTube reviews or speculation. We field tested the equipment in a real-world urban environment.

And what could be a better place for urban survival than in the heart of New York City?

I traveled to NYC to meet with Roman and Fabian, the founders of Ready To Go Survival to put the TUUSK to the test.

We met at an abandoned factory in Queens, slipped through the fence, and got to work.

For some highlights of the TUUSK items in action, check out this video:

Why Not Build the TUUSK Yourself?

You definitely can. I have shared all the information you need to build your own TUUSK.

However, if you are interested in maximizing your urban preparedness faster while saving money, buying an assembled kit guarantees:

  • Every item has been price matched against Amazon – you cannot get all this gear from ANYWHERE cheaper than here
  • The assembled kit will arrive much faster than buying everything individually
  • The bag will come packed and ready to go
  • The convenience of a quick and effective solution for urban survival

Ordering Your TUUSK

The TUUSK is now available for order directly from our friends at Ready To Go Survival.

*** For a limited time, exclusively for visitors of TheBugOutBagGuide.com, you’ll get a free LifeStraw with the purchase of your TUUSK. ***

With the TUUSK, you’ll never get caught unprepared.

Visit ReadyToGoSurvival.com to order the TUUSK

 

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The Best Emergency Lighting for a Power Outage

blackout

Do you know the emergency situation you are most likely to encounter?

It’s a power outage.

While power outages are highly likely to occur, many people are left unprepared when they happen. In a blackout, most people find themselves rummaging through their junk drawer, hoping to find a flashlight and praying the batteries still have a charge.

Anyone can prepare themselves for a blackout, and there’s no reason not to be prepared as it’s a situation most of us will be in several times throughout our lifetime.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 9 best emergency lighting options for a power outage
  • The advantages and disadvantages of each method and which is best for you
  • Helpful tips for thriving when the lights go out

Preparing For A Power Outage

To properly prepare your family in the case of a power outage, incorporate the following tips into your survival planning:

  • Keep a light by every bed in your home. For battery-powered lights, check the batteries every 6 months (set a recurring reminder on your phone to do this right now!) and replace those that are weak.
  • Talk to your family about what to do if there is a blackout. Choose a room for everyone to meet during a blackout and ensure each family member has a light source in their bedroom and can use it correctly.
  • Store 1 week’s worth of water and non-perishable food in case of a long-term emergency situation. For proper water storage, I recommend using the WaterBrick.
  • Have a wind-up emergency radio on-hand to stay informed during an emergency and be aware of any progress authorities are making in getting the grid back online. Of special note, an emergency radio also makes a great backup light source, making it a valuable multitool. For more info, learn how to pick the best emergency radio.
  • Always make sure to have at least one backup light source as even the best-laid plans can go wrong in an emergency.
  • For more help on getting your home ready for the next blackout, check out our comprehensive article on power grid failure.

Emergency Lighting Options for Your Home During a Blackout

There are a plethora of options to choose from for lighting your home during a power outage, but which ones are the best?

Read on to learn about the 9 different methods for lighting your house during a blackout and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.

1. Luci Solar Air Lantern

What It Is

The Luci Solar Air Lantern is a small, compact, lightweight lantern that reaches its full size when inflated with air and recharges via a built-in solar panel. I use the Luci Solar Air Lantern in my blackout kit as well as in my car and camping gear. In my opinion, this is by far the best lantern to use in a power outage.

Benefits

  • Charges within only a few hours and has no need for batteries
  • The Luci Solar Air Lantern can hold its charge for up to 3 years and provide 12 hours of light
  • Can be flattened to only 1 inch tall and weighs less than a deck of cards – perfect for storage or carrying
  • For its small, compact size, it provides a lot of light due to its round shape, which evenly shines over 150 square feet
  • Offers 100% waterproof capabilities so no need to panic if exposed to accidental dunking or rain
  • Has 2 brightness settings as well as an emergency SOS flash option to make it useful for nearly any emergency situation
  • Offers good quality at an inexpensive price
  • Can also be used for the following:
    • Camping – ideal for a weekend away. Makes it easy to cook, read, or play cards when it’s dark. I just leave it hanging up for the whole trip, it charges during the day, and I turn it on after the sun goes down.
    • Car – perfect for changing a tire or checking under the hood at night. Additionally, it can be set to SOS mode to alert other drivers to your presence.
    • Bug Out Bag – weighing as much as a deck of cards and collapsing down to 1 inch high, this is a perfect lightweight addition to a bug out bag or any other pack that may need to be carried over long distances.
    • Fishing/Boating – as it is 100% waterproof and able to float, it makes a great boating companion. If you happen to find yourself in trouble on the water, especially at night, the SOS setting can be a lifesaver.

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t provide the spotlight or throw distance of a flashlight; better suited for general illumination of a room or work area.

2. Flashlight

What It Is

A flashlight is a small, handheld light. Most people have a flashlight at home. When choosing a flashlight for a blackout kit, my recommendation is to find one that has an LED light source (instead of an old style light bulb), and that takes standard alkaline batteries (no fancy, expensive lithium batteries).

Why Choose An LED Light?

  • The efficiency is much greater than that of an old style light bulb, giving you better value for your money
  • Tougher than traditional bulbs, can be dropped without the worry of shattering
  • Offers a longer lifetime – modern LEDs are rated to last 10,000+ hours, several years of continuous use

Why Choose A Light That Takes Regular Batteries?

  • Economical
  • Easier to find or scavenge in a long-term survival situation

Benefits

  • Fits easily into a pocket
  • The sheer volume of available options makes it easy to find one that perfectly fits your budget and needs
  • Good for spotlighting – shining on a specific target from far away

Disadvantages

  • Not ideal for general lighting purposes as they throw a concentrated beam
  • Batteries can sometimes make them heavy
  • Needs batteries to function! Flashlights tend to sit in a drawer for a long time before use, resulting in the power draining from the batteries and rendering the flashlight useless when you most need it
  • Batteries are expensive, especially if you are going to stockpile them for a long-term bug-in or shelter-in-place situation. I recommend using a cheaper, reusable option.

We recommend the J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight.

3. Headlamp

What It Is

A headlamp is a small LED light that is worn on your head. It is favored by campers and outdoorsmen as it provides hands-free lighting that is well-suited for many tasks and finding your way in the dark.

Benefits

  • Offers hands-free working – no more holding a flashlight in your teeth as you work
  • Most modern models come with multiple brightness options to save battery power

Disadvantages

  • Not ideal for general lighting tasks such as lighting up a room during a blackout (similar to flashlights)
  • It is difficult to have a conversation with someone while wearing a headlamp as you will be shining the light in their eyes when facing them. This has happened to me more times than I can count, I hated headlamps for a long time before coming to terms with their usefulness.

Click here to learn how to choose the best headlamp for your needs.

4. Oil Lantern

What It Is

An oil lantern is an old style storm lantern that burns lamp oil stored in its base. This method has been used for thousands of years, so you know it’s a solid method for lighting your home.  My parents had some of these in the basement when I was growing up and walking by them always made me feel like I was in an old movie.

Advantages

  • No batteries needed
  • Simple moving parts that can be easily fixed
  • Long lasting
  • Can burn olive or citronella oil as an alternative to lamp oil

Disadvantages

  • Major fire hazard; basically becomes a molotov cocktail when knocked over
  • Frequently made of glass and is therefore quite fragile and is a potential fire hazard
  • Need to store enough oil to keep it going as well as spare wicks

5. Propane Lantern

A propane lantern is a lamp element that sits on top of a small propane tank, which acts as both the base of the lamp and the fuel source. The old style Coleman Propane Lantern was a standard item for the Boy Scout trips of my youth.

Benefits

  • Generates a lot of light for a long time
  • Provides adjustable brightness
  • Easy to use

Disadvantages

  • Have to have propane tanks on hand that fit the lantern (because these tanks are a particular size and type, they are harder to scavenge than something like an AA battery or lamp oil)
  • Pose a minor fire hazard (not as much as an oil lamp but you are burning propane, which has the potential to be a problem)
  • Get very hot during use (something to be aware of if you have pets or children around)
  • Have to replace the mantel of the lantern regularly (another item that would be difficult to scavenge)

6. Emergency Candles

Another light source that has been around for thousands of years, candles are a lighting source that keeps things simple. When I was a kid, we used candles to light the house during blackouts and always had a large stockpile downstairs.

Benefits

Disadvantages

  • They are a fire hazard, and while no one wants to have to call the fire department, during a blackout you might not even be able to!
  • You will need a large quantity to light a large room or entire house, which means a lot of storage space
  • You will need even more candles if you are looking to provide light for a long-term shelter-in-place scenario, no thanks!

7. Battery Powered Lantern

What It Is

A battery powered lantern is a modern electric lantern that runs on regular old batteries. In the last couple years, a huge number of new styles have come out that have LEDs in place of old-style light bulbs.

Benefits

  • There are many varieties of this lighting method available, making it easy to find one that suits your budget and performs exactly as needed
  • They usually take standard batteries, which are easier to scavenge than some of the other fuel sources mentioned
  • Very easy to use
  • Good for lighting a room or work area

Disadvantages

  • The main difference between a battery powered lantern and something like the Luci Solar Air Lantern that I use is that a battery powered lantern needs a constant supply of new batteries
  • Batteries can be expensive, especially if you choose to stockpile them, and are one more thing you will need to scavenge for in a long-term blackout or shelter-in-place scenario

8. Wind Up Lights

A wind-up light is a small flashlight powered by a hand-cranked dynamo. A crank or lever, usually on the outside of the flashlight, is wound or pumped to generate electricity.

Benefits

  • No need to stock up on batteries, you are the energy source!
  • Simple to use

Disadvantages

  • Not ideal for long-term use as they need to be turned off to charge (this can also be tiring)
  • Ineffective at lighting up rooms or work areas as they are not that bright
  • Tend to break from overuse as there are lots of moving parts

9. Glowsticks

Glowsticks are plastic tubes filled with chemicals that glow when a small capsule is broken inside them, usually by bending the glowstick. Glowsticks typically glow green but can be purchased in a variety of colors.

Benefits

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Works well for lighting up small spaces or places such as wells or manholes where you may not want to stick something you don’t want to lose
  • There is no fire hazard as they do not generate heat and there’s no worry of shattering
  • Can last up to 12 hours

Disadvantages

  • They do not provide a lot of light
  • Once they are on, they remain lit until they burn out
  • Once burnt out, that’s it – no refilling or recharging

What I Use In My Blackout Kit

For my home blackout kit, my primary light source is the Luci Solar Air Lantern. I love the fact that I can charge it up and know that charge will hold for 3 years.

Then, when a blackout occurs, I will have 12 hours of lighting on-hand and can charge it up the next day.

Never needing batteries is a big thing to me. In a long-term emergency situation, not needing batteries means I won’t have to leave my family alone at home while I scavenge for batteries!

My backup light source is a Fenix HP25 Headlamp. I use this if I have to do maintenance on the house in tight quarters or need to light the way while walking at night.

For extra lighting, for yourself or other family members, a J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight can come in handy as well.

Lastly, I have several sets of emergency candles as the last line of defense. When properly used, candles can double as a can double as a heat source, so I see this a smart, multipurpose item to include.

Your Thoughts?

What do you use to light your home during blackouts? Is there anything you would suggest staying away from? Let me know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

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The Ultimate Bug Out Bag List

Building your bug out bag is one of the most important preparedness steps you can take to protect yourself and your family in the event of a catastrophe.

Your bug out bag is designed to help you evacuate at a moment’s notice and is packed with the essential survival gear to get you to safety. It should contain everything you need to sustain you for a minimum of 72 hours.

Our free interactive bug out bag list will help you build your fully customized bug out bag, tailored to your specific needs, abilities, and environment.

IMPORTANT: If you’d rather not build your kit from scratch, consider the following options…

  1. Prefer a “ready-to-go” kit? See our premade bug out bag buying guide or check out the highly recommended Emergency Zone Bug Out Bag Emergency Disaster Kit for Two.
  2. Do you want professional help building your kit? Learn about our recommended Personalized Survival Kit Service.

Instructions

The bug out bag list below is broken down into various essential survival categories. Go through each category, one by one, and select the items that you would like to pack in your bug out bag.

Keep in mind, a well-designed bug out bag should weigh no more than 25% of your body weight, assuming you are in average shape and are not overweight. Any heavier than that can make carrying the bag highly strenuous and limit your ability to remain mobile and travel long distances on foot during an evacuation. Limit your packing list to the essentials that will help you survive.

Our bug out bag list will automatically estimate your bug out bag’s weight based on your selections, with the option of entering your body weight to see if your kit is below the recommended 25% weight threshold.

Once you are finished selecting your items, your personalized bug out bag checklist will be sent to you by email, to help you pack.

DON’T MISS: Below the tool, you’ll find a list of links to the best bug out bag gear to help you find any items don’t already own!

The Best Bug Out Bag Gear (with links!)

Bug Out Bag List (essentials + more!)After you’ve decided on what to pack in your bug out bag, the next step is to assemble your kit.

In case you’re missing any of the items, we’ve put together the following list of our favorite survival gear.

REMEMBER: Don’t just pack everything on this list. Instead, limit your bag’s contents based on your specific needs, environment, and potential threats.

Also, make sure your bag, once packed, weighs less than 25% of your body weight, assuming you are in average shape and not overweight.

Finally, don’t forget to include your personal items such as cash, copies of your identification, and medications.

The Backpack

We love the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 for a 3-day bug out bag. It is designed by professional survivalists and is built to last.

If you prefer a budget-friendly option, take a look at the 3V Gear Paratus 3-Day Backpack or the Reebow Tactical 3-Day Backpack.

For more backpack information, read our article on how to choose a bug out bag backpack.

Shelter and Environmental Protection

Food and Water

Communication and Navigation

First Aid and Staying Healthy

Miscellaneous

Urban / Suburban Survival Gear

Wilderness Survival Gear

Self-Defense

Get More Advice

Want to be even more prepared? You’ve come to the right place.

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Wrapping Up

We hope that our bug out bag list and gear recommendations help you get prepared.

Remember, don’t procrastinate, and get your bug out bag ready ASAP.

The last thing you want is to be unprepared for an emergency.

IMPORTANT: If you’d rather not build your kit from scratch, consider the following options…

  1. Prefer a “ready-to-go” kit? See our premade bug out bag buying guide or check out the highly recommended Emergency Zone Bug Out Bag Emergency Disaster Kit for Two.
  2. Do you want professional help building your kit? Learn about our recommended Personalized Survival Kit Service.


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